Agility derives from the Latin word ‘ago’, a movement of the self that drives the movement of others. It is a synonym for leadership, having the ability and foresight to spot problems as they venture over the horizon, and adapt quickly and effectively to minimise their impact.

When it comes to business, and how business deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to show ‘ago’ is needed more than ever so organisations not only survive but flourish in the future.

According to George D Schindler, President and CEO of global IT and business consulting services company CGI, organisations need to respond, rebound and reinvent.

These three words are the cornerstone of a wide-ranging white paper published recently by Schindler. In it, he identifies business agility as one of three key organisational capabilities that company directors and CEOs must take on board as they deal with the economic fallout caused by the worst health crisis in over 100 years.

Schindler says: “Organisations will continue to embrace new ways of working to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. Among commercial executives, business agility is the third most important business priority this year. Yet only 18% report their business is highly agile.

“CGI research indicates that those organisations with high business agility outperform their peers by a factor of two to three times in terms of revenue and profitable growth.”

This research Schindler cites is from CGI Client Global Insights, an annual consultative conversation where CGI leaders meet with business and IT executives around the world to gather their perspectives on the trends affecting their organisations.

CGI conducted 1,500 consultations before and during the pandemic to discover what capabilities leaders need to chart a path through the choppy waters of the pandemic.

As well as mastering business agility, they pinpointed rethinking the technology supply chain and enabling the future of work – such as encouraging interest in STEM subjects and continual skills development for staff -– as the other vital commodities.

Fundamental to all three is technology and the opportunities it provides for swift change and flexibility. One example Schindler points to is retail, where online businesses have experienced a surge in demand during COVID-19, while the High Street has faced a dramatic slowdown, and enforced shutdowns.

Lindsay McGranaghan, vice-president of CGI in Scotland, wants fellow Scottish-based businesses to take advantage of the insights outlined in Schindler’s report.

She said: “Everyone agrees that 2021 will be the year where we need to rebuild our economy. That is why the agility of businesses to adapt and change is vital. To achieve this, leaders must invest in their work cultures, their operating models and also their technology.

“As well as that investment, they must spend time evaluating and adjusting them to cope with the constantly changing demands on their organisations that a health crisis like COVID-19 will bring.

“If they are willing to enable the latest technological developments to assist their strategies, embrace innovation and automation, and adopt alternative distribution chains, they can gain the resilience they need to thrive in our ‘new normal’.”

According to Schindler, COVID-19 has “highlighted the importance of the technology supply chain to pivot to new realities with agility and elasticity, and to build more resilience into how organisations deliver their products and services”.

He added: “When asked to rank top innovation investments, executives cite modernisation, automation and robotics, and cloud technologies, which are the key elements of modern and resilient technology supply chains.”

Another new reality is the growing importance of good digital engagement with customers – something again highlighted in CGI’s Client Global Insights. Yet despite its importance, 88% of executives admitted they are yet to see results from their own enterprise digital strategies.

McGranaghan highlighted the success of new digital tools requires “efficient management and training to integrate them into the work environment”.

She said: “Already the digital revolution has seen fascinating new business models that are helping industry leaders focus on service to clients in a much more focused way. This provides better outcomes for everyone.”

Schindler points out that organisations will deal with the different phases of change caused by COVID-19 “at varying paces”.

He added: “We refer to these phases as Respond, Rebound and Reinvent: Respond to address the immediate needs of operating during the crisis, Rebound to meet the tactical challenges associated with emerging from the crisis and addressing new business requirements, and Reinvent to reengineer operating models to enable new ways of interacting with customers and citizens post-crisis.

“While many experts are making predictions on the future of industry and how to adapt, we at CGI believe it is more important than ever to focus on how to create value. We have demonstrated the ingenuity to help clients with how, particularly through mastering business agility, rethinking their vital technology supply chains, and enabling the future of work.”

Download the white paper at